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The Next Normal No time to whine! What brands can learn from the new VIACOM Millennial study

In this post I want to share my outtakes from the BE VIACOM Talking Shop on February 28th in London about their new global study on the millennial generation. For those who think they don’t know VIACOM, think again. VIACOM is the company behind MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central to name their biggest global media brands. For the ‘Next Normal’ they conducted research in more than 24 countries spread across all continents to interview more than 15,000 members on what is the biggest generation on a global scale of today.

***** DISCLAIMER *****
Let me start with a disclaimer first. I am a Millennial myself and a fan of VIACOM and MTV in many ways. Yo! MTV raps, the MTV Unplugged series and Michael Jackson’s Thriller are just a couple of the highlights in my personal MTV timeline. Not to forget the invention of reality TV, still my favourite companion for Sunday night delivery meals. Next to that, I got introduced to research and youth marketing during an internship at MTV Networks Belgium which has been a huge influence on my professional career. Today I am happy to still work for MTV and VIACOM along with many other great brands that are targeting kids, teens and twentysomethings.

This being said, I guess you understand that I was pretty excited to hear all about VIACOM’s new Millennial study which was presented by Christian Kurz – VP Research, Insights and Reporting. While Christian is one of the most passionate researchers and a great storyteller, he started with a rather depressing insight from the study as he revealed that the global economic crash is the most important event shaping the opinions and emotions of youngsters today.

The Next Normal_Biggest Problem

However and fortunately for the advertisers in the room, this does not imply that Generation Y consumers are pessimistic as Christian explained the ‘Winning not Whining’ trend he observes. Millennials are simply realistic and understand that they are facing challenging times, but refuse to give up. As such, they provide inspiration for (Gen X?) marketers as this provides an opportunity to create win-win-situations in which brands successfully connect with their Gen Y target by providing them with learning experiences and support them to face the current economic climate.

Fashion manufacturer Benetton has a long history of integrating societal (and political) topics in its campaigns. It should not be a surprise that last September, they came up with the ‘Unemployee of the Year’ which puts the spotlight on the skills of Millennials who struggle to find a job. Benetton promised to fund 100 projects that were submitted by consumers via Facebook.

Time to get back to the basics #YOLO

The ‘Next Normal’ found good proof of the fact that Millennials are not pessimistic despite the challenges of the economic climate. While 1 in 3 Millennials claims to be stressed, three out of four consider themselves as being happy. The scores of Italy and Greece are just below this global average, to name just 2 of the most impacted economies today.

The Next Normal_Happiest millennials

VIACOM observed another macro-trend of ‘going back to the basics’. Millennials are seeking meaning and going back to essence of what makes them happy and what they can afford to experience. Not a coincidence that YOLO or ‘You only live once’ – the new ‘Carpe diem’ – is probably the most shared life motto by youngsters on social media today. Learn more about the history, use and misuse of the acronym here: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/yolo

As a result VIACOM expects that the digital detoxing trend will keep on rising with Millennials who are continuously seeking to balance their lives and searching for genuine and authentic experiences. While digital detox holidays and parties appear to pop up everywhere, but brands are leveraging on this trend as well. The Corona Beach Break campaign is probably one of the most obvious examples as it rewarded consumers who stopped using Facebook (for a while) or checked-in into ‘real world experiences’ such as sports events.

On the other hand, I believe everyone agrees that digital detoxing is more of a temporary need and can be a welcome break to escape the chaos smartphones, social media, etc can bring into the lives of consumers. But Millennials will keep on using digital tools which enhance their lives and there seems no way back to a world that could be distinguished into offline and online realities – online tools are woven into how Millennials interact with today. While Facebook reportedly has seen a decreasing popularity among teens, Instagram and Snapchat are ready to take over its role – at least for another while. I recently conducted 2 studies across Europe on the mobile needs of youngsters which both confirmed that youngsters are craving for more mobile data. That’s why I really like the new #DancePonyDance campaign of UK mobile operator Three.

I bet you at least smiled a little when watching this video or seeing it for the first time. And that’s exactly why it is taking the internet by storm. We just like to share this kind of silly stuff with others to make them smile and spread some happiness. I think the guys at Wieden & Kennedy turned this insight into a brilliant communication idea and execution here. Digital detoxing may become more popular, but I am sure this type of great communication will keep on being spread.

Curious to find out more?

All in all VIACOM’s story on Millennials clearly is a positive one and so is their message to marketers: even in a challenging economic climate, there are lots opportunities to connect with youngsters and build love brands. (I guess that could be the reason why I wanted to blog about it and try to spread some happiness too :-))

I shared just a few of the insights which can help brand owners to achieve this goal and become (or stay) successful among the biggest generation today. To learn more about the Next Normal study and discover more trends for brands to tap into, have a look at the VIACOM Insights blog on http://vimninsights.tumblr.com/.

Always happy to discuss and curious for your thoughts on this !

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